What are the best pots and pans for a boat? Whatever cookware you get, this is something that you’ll use everyday and, outside of your galley appliances such as the refrigerator and stove, will probably be the most expensive bit of galley gear you’ll buy. You want to get it right the first time.
Magma Nestable Cookware
I used an earlier non-stick version of this set for six years aboard Que Tal and loved it. It meets all my criteria for great boat cookware. (NOTE: That set stayed on the boat when we sold her. This past summer, fed up with the space that the pans were taking up in my “house” kitchen — which is tiny — I got rid of most of them and purchased the Magma 7-piece starter set shown at the bottom of this article. I also have one very good but expensive titanium nonstick skillet, the Kuhn-Rikon Multi-pot and some baking pans.)
- Useful Pan Sizes. In 6 years, I never felt the need for another size pan. This set includes a 1-1/2-, 2-, and 3-quart size sauce pan, with a 5-quart stock pot and a 9-1/2 inch frying pan. For 2 people living aboard, and occasional guests and pitch in dinners, I never needed anything else. The two lids each work with several of the pans, and on the few occasions that I needed a third lid I just used a piece of aluminum foil. Another consideration is that these sizes of pans will fit in almost any pot restraints (if your stove is particularly small, you may want to measure).
- Easily Stowed. Pans can take an inordinate amount of space in a boat kitchen. These take up a space about 12 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches high, due to the nesting design and the fact that the handles are removable.
- Removable Handles. Those removable handles actually do several things for this set — they make it so that the pans nest together much more tightly so that they take less space; they make it so that the pans can be used in the oven as well as on the stovetop; and they make the pans more suitable for use as serving dishes (for example, the sauce pans make nice salad bowls if the handles aren’t attached). When needed, the handles attach securely, so that you’re not afraid of spilling hot food. Many cheaper sets have “fold down” handles that tend to “fall down” next to the burner and get VERY hot in use — I really don’t like those!
- Multi-Use Set. If your space is really limited (and whose isn’t in a galley), this set can serve as your mixing bowls, stovetop cookware, baking pans and serving dishes. For our first three years aboard Que Tal, this was my “one and only” set and it worked fine for everything I made — bread, casseroles, brownies and more. Eventually I added a few more baking pans and serving dishes, but this was a great starting point.
- High Quality Pans. Many nesting “camping” pans are thin metal, prone to hot spots that can scorch your food. These aren’t. They are heavy-duty stainless with triple-clad bottoms. There’s less chance of hot spots and the stainless won’t rust or react with acidic foods the way many cheaper aluminum pans will.
- Use Less Water with Non-Stick Pans. I know that some people don’t like non-stick pans for a variety of reasons: you have to be careful not to scratch them, and some worry about the chemicals. The number-one reason that I like non-stick aboard a boat is that cleanup uses so much less water (okay, it takes less effort, too). No soaking pans, no rinsing something off only to realize it’s not fully clean, and so on. The Magma Non-Stick set is high-quality non-stick and very scratch resistant. You can get good silicone utensils to use with it and I’ll even admit to using metal utensils in my Silverstone pans (although I don’t recommend it and if you do, it’s at your own risk). A few pieces of fabric (I like fleece) between the pans will prevent scratching when stowed. The non-stick set is a little harder to use as your mixing bowls, as the silicone mixing spoons aren’t as satisfactory as the stainless mixing spoons — but if you do a lot of baking, you’re probably going to want a true mixing bowl and this won’t be as much of an issue (see my recommendations on hand mixing equipment).
Years ago, I bought a cheap nesting pan set for camping — it cost about $20 and I figured I could live with it for a week at a time. And every trip we took, I was frustrated because my food would scorch, the pans dented easily and the handles weren’t really usable.
When we moved aboard Que Tal, I briefly thought of taking that set. We were spending money left and right to outfit the boat, and I already had those pans. I even went so far as to take the pans to the boat and use them for a week. That made up my mind. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I bought a better set. They really are worth it, particularly if you’re going to be spending more than just an occasional day on the boat.
Another less-expensive option is a Magma 7-piece “starter” set, pictured at right, although it does not come in nonstick. This is the set I now have, although I have a few other pans as well.
Whichever set you get, I think you’ll be happy!